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Water for Elephants | [Sara Gruen]

Water for Elephants

Why we think it’s a great listen: Some books are meant to be read; others are meant to be heard – Water for Elephants falls into the second group, and is one of the best examples we have of how a powerful performance enhances a great story. Nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. It's the Depression Era and Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: Two narrators weave together strands of a story spanning decades. David LeDoux portrays the lead character in his twenties and John Randolph Jones is the same character 70 years later. Both are excellent, but Jones' rough bass filled my head with the joys and pain felt by the old man, in a way that the voice I hear when I read to myself could never have done. One of the most outstanding audiobooks I've ever heard! —Beth Anderson

Publisher's Summary

An atmospheric tale of life and love in a Depression-era traveling circus.

Nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. It's the Depression Era and Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. There he meets the freaks, grifters, and misfits that populate this world. Jacob introduces us to Marlena, beautiful star of the equestrian act; to August, her charismatic but twisted husband (and the circus' animal trainer); and to Rosie, a seemingly untrainable elephant.

Beautifully written, with a luminous sense of time and place, Water for Elephants tells of love in a world in which love's a luxury few can afford.

©2006 Sara Gruen; (P)2006 HighBridge Company

What the Critics Say

  • Book Sense Book of the Year Award, Adult Fiction, 2007
  • Audie Award Finalist, Fiction, Unabridged, 2007

"Water for Elephants resembles stealth hits like The Giant's House, by Elizabeth McCracken, or The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, books that combine outrageously whimsical premises with crowd-pleasing romanticism. . . . With a showman's expert timing, [Gruen] saves a terrific revelation for the final pages, transforming a glimpse of Americana into an enchanting escapist fairy tale.” (New York Times Book Review)

"Just like a circus, the magic of the story and the writing convince you to suspend your disbelief." (Booklist)

"Gruen skillfully humanizes the midgets, drunks, rubes, and freaks who populate her book." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (14074 )
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4.5 (6416 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Nancy 02-09-07
    Nancy 02-09-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
    ratings
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    23
    5
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    0
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    "One of my all time favorites"

    A wonderful listen! This book made me shed tears of sadness and tears of joy! I NEVER cry at movies or reading books! Don't miss this one!
    Thanks to Audible for suggesting this as the best listen of 2006. I loved it!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rhonda Arlington, TX, USA 02-07-07
    Rhonda Arlington, TX, USA 02-07-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    60
    2
    Overall
    "great book"

    I love this book. It was something new, not the same old thing. loved the story and the characters.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martha Canandaigua, NY, USA 02-07-07
    Martha Canandaigua, NY, USA 02-07-07 Member Since 2005
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "A Wonderful Read"

    As a long-time commuter, I've been listening to books for years; for so long, in fact, that few books stand out anymore, but Water for Elephants is one that does. This story is solidly entertainly and memorable on all fronts--the story, the character development, the language, and the reader.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Valerie ponte Vedra Beach, FL, USA 02-05-07
    Valerie ponte Vedra Beach, FL, USA 02-05-07 Member Since 2012
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    3
    3
    Overall
    "Fantastic!"

    This is a great, well written book. The characters come to life, the narration is perfect, and I never wanted it to end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wilma Mareno Valley, CA, USA 02-04-07
    Wilma Mareno Valley, CA, USA 02-04-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    1
    Overall
    "Great story"

    This is a great story. I cried some, laughed some and even got mad some but in the end, I came away feeling really good. I would recommend this story to everyone...so I am.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa Brookings, OR, USA 02-03-07
    Lisa Brookings, OR, USA 02-03-07 Member Since 2012
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    1
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    2
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    "Wonderful listening"

    This was a beautifully written love story told in the words of an old man speaking in the present interspersed with a young man telling the story in his past. The story telling is remarkable by the two readers who manage to make the book come alive. Highly recommended listening!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dee Austin, TX, USA 02-01-07
    Dee Austin, TX, USA 02-01-07 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
    ratings
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    160
    8
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    1
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    "A Great Listen"

    This is a wonderful, tender, compassionate and heartbreaking account of a life. Although it is very violent at times, the story is compelling; romantic without being saccharine. One of the few books I wish would have gone on much longer. The ending was very satifying. Powerful narrations by both actors...a great listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. McCoy Viginia Beach, VA USA 01-29-07
    C. McCoy Viginia Beach, VA USA 01-29-07 Member Since 2014

    FSX Pilot

    HELPFUL VOTES
    60
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    65
    17
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    3
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    "Superb Novel"

    Undoubtedly the most heart warming story I have read in years. I admittedly am a romantic and love stories that end "and they all lived happily ever after." This novel comes close to that ending and so wins my favor automatically; however, the story itself was so moving - especially Jacob at 90 (or is it 93)and his observations of nursing home living. I relate to it so very much as I spend every day with my mother who is in a nursing home. Jacob tells it like it is and his reactions are certainly typical in every way - I grew to love him deeply as his story unfolds. I empathized with him and his circumstances every step of the way. I also loved Jacob at 23 and the unfolding story of his true love with all the surprises that it holds. His story too brings the romantic out in me even more. DO NOT PASS this book by -- read it and you will enjoy it, I guarantee.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Virginia A Pelham, AL, USA 01-27-07
    Virginia A Pelham, AL, USA 01-27-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    3
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    "Memorable characters"

    This was one of the most memorable novels I have read in the last few years.

    The narrator, Jacob, is “ninety or ninety-three” and lives in a nursing home. The arrival of the circus next store leads him to reflect on his experiences working on a circus during the depression. I have never been to the circus but Gruen makes the days when the circus was still a big event come to life.

    Several things make this story stand out. First, instead of the usual format where the elderly person only appears to introduce a flashback, in Water For Elephants, the story alternates between Jacob’s present life in the nursing home and his life as a young man in the circus. In the audio version, there are separate narrators for the younger Jacob and the older Jacob. This makes it easy to tell where you are and adds to the realism.

    At first I found myself wanting to get out of the nursing home and back to the circus, but by the end I cared as much about what was going to happen to the elderly Jacob and I did about learning the secret of his past. Even so, I thought the writing about the circus was especially powerful. Gruen’s ability to evoke the world of the depression-era circus reminded me of Ann Rice’s ability to make me feel that I am in New Orleans. She puts you in the menagerie with the animals, and Rosie, the elephant, is a character you won’t soon forget.

    Finally, there is a surprise at the end, which leaves you feeling happier than you expected.

    This is a relatively short book that I think anyone who loves animals will enjoy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Dallas, TX, United States 01-24-07
    William Dallas, TX, United States 01-24-07

    Semi-retired ENT doctor who listens to books while making a 55 minute commute to work two days a week.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    0
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    "Outstanding"

    As a senior citizen, this book was great. The author really knows nursing home life. This is a wonderful story, well witten and very well spoken. I liked the surprise ending.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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